So, as it turns out, the day following St Patrick's Day festivities is not a good day to try to get people to show up for D&D. Three out of my five players cancelled. The fourth doesn't drink. The fifth is my wife.
However, yesterday I did pick up the D&D board game Wrath of Ashardalon! That was $65 very well spent (just for the minis, as far as I'm concerned!). I was a bit apprehensive going in; our two forays into Castle Ravenloft had been unsuccessful and generally frustrating, as opposed to fun. Tonight, my beautiful wife and I ventured into Firestorm Peak and came out successful! We took a full complement with us. I played the cleric, the paladin, and the wizard, while Gabby handled the fighter and the rogue. We played the second adventure in the book, with the simple goal of defeating twelve monsters. We had an initial spat of very poor dice rolls, but soon got some good luck, including a free pass at leveling up the wizard. The game is pure, random chaos. More so than an old-school dungeon foray, because something bad pretty much happens on every character's turn. The constant onslaught of monsters, traps and pitfalls makes the finding of good treasure that much more of a relief, especially when it's just the thing you really need (like the Tome of Experience).
For next time I'm thinking of bringing along a character or two from Ravenloft (like the Ranger). The heroes are all interchangeable, so why not? I also am looking forward to trying out some of the homebrewed characters that are floating around the interwebs. I'll let you know how those playtests go for sure.
In the meantime, we'll probably be playing more of these games in the near future, so I'll hopefully have some more in-depth play reports soon. I'm thinking we will play a couple more one-shots and then give "Campaign Mode" a shot.